6/16/2013 2:00 P.M. ET
Astros haven't had much need for long relief lately
By Chris Abshire / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter has one of the best problems in baseball. He can't seem to get his bullpen enough work.
With the Astros' recent starting-pitching surge, there hasn't been much need for a long reliever.
"It's unfortunate for some of our long guys that they're not getting the number of innings they probably want," Porter said. "It's a good problem to have. I've seen it the other way around earlier on for us. I like it better this way."
Since May 15, Astros starters have a 3.04 ERA, second in the American League during that stretch entering Sunday. But their longevity may be even more impressive. In the past 31 games, only two Houston starts have lasted fewer than five innings, 22 of those outings lasting at least six innings.
That's left the bullpen arms generally relegated to at most an inning of work at a time.
Saturday night's game was a prime example, as Lucas Harrell lasted 6 2/3 innings. That left Paul Clemens with two-thirds of an inning, Wesley Wright and Hector Ambriz recorded an out each and closer Jose Veras got the save with one inning of work.
Even long-relief specialist Jose Cisnero has only gone more than two innings in two of his last six appearances.
To prevent rusty arms, Porter has turned to extended bullpen sessions to keep fresh the unit that was taxed more than any other in the Majors back in April.
"Again, it's just a side effect of your starting pitching being great," Porter said. "Your bullpen goes these extensive stretches without long work. You have to make sure they still get the work, though, so we've extensively used extended bullpen sessions. They have to pitch somewhere."
Astros players share Father's Day memories
HOUSTON -- For many Astros, Father's Day and baseball are inextricably linked, with their dads being an integral part of their careers dating all the way back to childhood tournaments.
"When you think about Father's Day, it brings back memories of baseball," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It's one of those things where you're normally at the park and your dad is at the game watching. If you played as a kid, and he was there with you, it brings back fond memories of special times with your dad."
Below are some Astros players' thoughts on their dads and Father's Day:
"Growing up, my dad actually helped coach a lot of the Little League teams I was on," Castro said. "Whether he was the head coach or not, he was always involved. My birthday always usually fell on or right after Father's Day, so it was a day we either shared together celebrating or at the ballpark in uniform."
Castro said Father's Day always fell during the busiest time of his youth baseball seasons and the game was always integral to the day's festivities.
"It was always during baseball season and it was always special," Castro said. "I remember growing up, going to practices and All-Star games with him there, so this is definitely a nostalgic time. This day always seemed to revolve around baseball. That's what we were doing all day every summer, and our dad always shared it with us."
"I just remember having tournament games at 7:30 in the morning an hour and a half away from home," Ambriz said. "We'd leave at 6 and I'd sleep the whole way while my dad drove me, did that for me. It was like that my whole life."
Ambriz said his father still doesn't miss a game, either using the MLB.TV package for night games or the radio during day games to follow the Astros.
"Father's Day, even if I wasn't playing, we were watching baseball," Ambriz said. "I remember him having to come watch me play a doubleheader on the Sunday. But that was the only thing he wanted to do, watch me play ball. He wouldn't have been anywhere else."
This is Ambriz's final Father's Day before he becomes a dad, with his wife almost six months pregnant.
"Can't wait," he said. "Hopefully we'll share some baseball memories together, too. Well, this or football. Either way, it's exciting to think about."
"Just all the days he helped me practice, playing catch and throwing batting practice to me," Clemens said of his favorite baseball memories with his father.
"On Father's Day, we'd always give him some presents and mom would cook and he'd watch some TV with us."
Clemens said his father grew up a hardcore Phillies fan and remembers watching ESPN analyst John Kruk -- Clemens' favorite player as a kid -- with him while the team made the World Series when he was 5 years old.
"Yeah, my dad was a Phillies guy, born and raised outside of Philly," Clemens said. "He's on board with the 'Stros now, though. I got him to convert a little. It's still weird seeing Kruky on TV doing baseball. I still remember sitting down on Father's Day with my dad, sharing a couple bowls of ice cream and watching the Phils play. That was the tradition."
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.